More Hints for Using Your Autofocus

So you have been practicing the various autofocus settings of your camera since the blog on autofocus. Plus you read up on the subject in your camera manual so now you are way smart and understand the different modes you can use depending on the movement of your subject.

All good. All that’s left to work on is to remember that you still have to “tell” the camera what you want to focus on.

With landscape photography, we have a lot of options on where we want to focus. But with animals and people, we always want to focus on the eyes.

So we see that the rabbit’s eyes are in sharp focus in the photo below.

Ok. Got it. And isn’t he cute?

How about this dog? Where is the focus in this one.

Look at how sharp the grass is in front of the dog. See how her front paws and a bit of her chest is sharp, but the rest of her is “soft?”

So, quick review. Start by aiming the focusing frame (the small bracket or rectangle in the center of the viewfinder) at your subject and press the shutter release button HALF WAY down. This will show the camera what you intend to focus on. Most cameras have a green light at the bottom of the viewfinder frame, or emit a beep (check your manual) to tell you the camera is focused. Wait for that signal before pressing the shutter all the way down to complete the exposure.

The focusing frame is in the center of the viewfinder, so if your subject is off center, you will need to point the focusing frame at the subject to lock in the focus before you take the photograph. Aim the focusing frame at your subject, press the button half way down and hold it down while you move the camera to compose the scene. Then press the button all the way down to take the picture.

Sounds easy right? Well it is as long as you remember that the autofocus rectangle is just that, automatic. There are any number of situations where the autofocus can become confused. For starters, it doesn’t discriminate among things that are close together so it may focus on the wrong one. You must do the discriminating.

Here’s a good example of what happens when you aren’t careful with where the focusing frame is pointed.

Arrgh…. Try again and make sure the autofocus is on the goat, and not the fence.

Much better!

Here’s another example. I wanted to take a photo of the ducks, but I pointed the focusing frame at the flowers instead.


If at first you don’t succeed….Bingo!

If you are using your autofocus on a low-contrast scene, or one where there is a lot of distance between the subjects, the autofocus may become confused because it can’t pick up a point to focus on. You will know the camera is having trouble, because the lens will be whirring in and out trying to focus on something. If this happens, be prepared to switch to manual focus.

So practice placing the focusing frame exactly over the area you want in sharp focus. In the photo above, the frame was over the man and the dogs and because the boy and the dog at far left were in the same focal plane, they are sharp too.

Practice these techniques and you’ll be ready for the next challenge…focusing on subjects with fast movement.

Good shooting!

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